Martin Heidegger at Eighty

New York Review of Books 17/6 (21 October 1971): 50-54. Translated by Albert Hofstadter.

(Originally in German, Merkur 10 [1969]: 893-902. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. Reprinted in English in Michael Murray, ed., Heidegger and Modern Philosophy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.)


Martin Heidegger’s eightieth birthday was also the fiftieth anniversary of his public life, which he began not as an author—though he had already published a book on Duns Scotus—but as a university teacher. In barely three or four years since that first solid and interesting but still rather conventional study, he had become so different from its author that his students hardly knew about it. If it is true, as Plato once remarked, that “the beginning is also a god; so long as he dwells among men, he saves all things” (Laws 775), then the beginning in Heidegger’s case is neither the date of his birth (September 26, 1889, at Messkirch) nor the publication of his first book, but the first lecture courses and seminars which he held as a mere Privatdozent (instructor) and assistant to Husserl at the University of Freiburg in 1919.

The New York Review of Books